The dubious claims of Dan Price, the Gravity Payments CEO paying everyone $70,000

The celebrity CEO's story has holes, Bloomberg found

In April of 2015, Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments, made national news when he announced his plan to raise the salary of every Gravity Payments employee to $70,000.

dan price

Immediately following his announcement, Price was bombarded with media requests. He was on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine, labeled by some as “the best boss in America,” made appearances on The Daily Show and Good Morning America, landed a book deal with the same company that publishes Malcolm Gladwell, and is now getting speaking gigs at the hottest conferences in America for $100,000 a pop.

But in a December 2015 recent article for Bloomberg, reporter Karen Weise raised revealing questions about the Dan Price story, suggesting that he was “writing his own origin myth one interview at a time” and hinting that the entire wage raise was spurred by Price to skyrocket him to CEO celebrity status and hurt his cofounder brother.

Here’s a list of the questions Weise raised:

1 Price’s compensation prior to the $70,000 raise was $1.1 million, which was apparently not approved by his board. Gravity Payment’s net revenue was $16 million in 2014. The top quartile of companies with similar net revenue is $373,000, making Price’s compensation nearly 3x above the most paid CEOs at similarly-sized companies.

Price claimed that the Gravity Payments board (made up of himself and his brother and cofounder Lucas) approved his salary. Lucas Price allegedly objected to Dan’s salary, but because Dan owns the majority of the company he was able to overrule his brother. With this money, Dan bought a $900,000 house in cash.

2 He was accused of water boarding and beating his wife. On October 28 Price’s ex-wife, Kristie Colón, gave a TEDx talk where she said Price “started punching me in the stomach and slapped me across the face.” Later, Colón said that she had to lock herself in the car because she was “afraid he was going to body-slam me into the ground again or waterboard me in our upstairs bathroom like he had done before.” In a cover story, Price told Inc. that the two divorced “amicably” in 2012.

3 Price claims he was sued out of jealousy by his brother Lucas two weeks after he made the $70,000 announcement. When Lucas left the company, Dan raised his own salary (from $50,000 to $1 million in one year), causing a rift between the two.

On March 16, one month before Dan made his famous $70,000 announcement, he was served notice that Lucas was suing him. Court documents showed that Dan signed the papers and knew of the lawsuit. But Dan claimed that he was being sued after the wage announcement because Lucas was jealous of the press.

4 One source suggested that Price could have raised his employees’ wages to $70,000 so his brother wouldn’t receive his share of Gravity Payments’ dividends, not so much because he wanted to improve his employees’ lives. In other words, instead of paying his disgruntled brother an annual dividend, Dan made the wage increase to hurt his brother and further his own personal agenda of being a celebrity CEO.

5 Price claims to have been contacted by numerous reality TV show producers. Price said that he had been contacted by Ryan Seacrest’s production company about a reality show. However, a Seacrest spokesman said he “does not recall ever speaking with Mr. Price.”

6 At one point, Price said that he was “just so sick of attention … It just feels like a lot of investment of yourself.” Yet Price and his team asked six different times if he’d be on Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover. 

If there’s anything that we have learned from this saga, it’s that if a story looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Click here to read Bloomberg’s entire piece.

Get the 5-minute news brief keeping 2.5M+ innovators in the loop. Always free. 100% fresh. No bullsh*t.